When the Giants trickled off the field immediately following Sunday’s loss to the Bears, they were met outside their locker room by someone they were not expecting to be there.
Then again, maybe they weren’t surprised. Not if they know Saquon Barkley.
"He was the first guy we saw in the locker room waiting in the tunnel after he just had a devastating injury receiving some real tough news," Daniel Jones recalled of the scene at Soldier Field, the running back on his crutches, the team just having lost on the final play of the game. "He’s the first guy welcoming everyone in and encouraging everyone after a tough loss. I think that kind of gives you an idea of the type of teammate he is, the type of leader he is."
And also why the Giants don’t want him to go away.
While Barkley will not be back to play for the Giants the rest of this year, Joe Judge said on Thursday that he and the organization will make every accommodation they can to be sure Barkley is around the team as much as possible in the next three months of the regular season.
"Without question we want to keep him around," Judge said. "As much as we can have him around here we absolutely want him to be. This guy was elected captain by his teammates for a reason and he is an integral part of this program. He’s a very positive guy, he is a very team-first guy."
There are obviously some obstacles to that. Judge noted that they are looking into protocols regarding COVID-19 and whether they can have Barkley on the sideline or in a booth at games, perhaps even this Sunday’s home game against the 49ers. There also is Barkley’s schedule to contend with. He will have surgery in the coming weeks once the swelling on his right knee decreases, but he already has begun what is called "pre-hab" to strengthen the area and get a jump on healing before the actual procedure.
"Day to day with his treatment or rehab or when he goes to his surgery, that will obviously change his schedule a little bit," Judge said. "But working around his schedule, he is a part of this team. He is a part of this team. We want him around as much as we can have him."
And eventually, not just as a spectator or as a welcome face in the tunnel outside the locker room.
"The adversity he is going through right now, he is going to work as hard as he can and I can say that with absolute confidence," Judge said. "I’m very anxious to see him on the back end coming out of this thing because I know the aggressiveness he is preparing with."
Added Jones: "It’s obviously tough to lose someone like that. We’ll all support him and I’m confident in his ability to attack this process and come through it a stronger player. That certainly wasn’t easy to see but he’s a fighter, he’s a tough guy. I’m sure he will come out of it stronger."